cover image The Cat at the Wall

The Cat at the Wall

Deborah Ellis. Groundwood (PGW, dist.), $16.95 (144p) ISBN 978-1-55498-491-6

"The best thing about being a cat is that nothing is my fault," says 13-year-old Clare, who died in Bethlehem, Pa., and has been reincarnated as a cat in another Bethlehem—the one in the West Bank. As a human girl, Clare taunted her sister, manipulated her parents, and butted heads with her homeroom teacher; these and other memories are triggered by Clare's current situation, as the narrative nimbly jumps between past and present. In Israel, Clare witnesses the horrors of life in a war zone on both sides of the "Big Wall." Her life mainly consists of foraging for food until two soldiers with the Israel Defense Forces—one American, one Israeli, and each with his own motives for being in the army and beliefs about the conflict—commandeer a Palestinian house to do surveillance on a neighboring building; Clare decides to help the traumatized boy hiding in the house. Ellis's (No Ordinary Day) premise is an unusual one, but with it she crafts a thought-provoking and sensitive story about the power of empathy and selflessness. Ages 9–12. (Sept.)